Luke Erickson

Luke Erickson is a season-ticket holder for the Potomac Nationals, but makes a point of seeing games in Hagerstown and Harrisburg at least once a summer. When the PNats are away on the weekend, Luke finds a minor-league game somewhere to watch, and generally attends 70-80 baseball games a year up across several states. A former sportswriter with newspapers in Massachusetts and Oregon, Luke lives in Western Fairfax County with his wife and two sons.

Dec 022011
 

Fear not, seamheads. The list will be here before the weekend.

The turnout the second time around was a little less — 17 vs. 19 — and lot closer. Twenty different hurlers got a vote, with four named on every ballot. No perfect score this time, which was not a surprise. Without further ado, the results in reverse order with points in parentheses:

10. Rafael Martin (14)
9. Danny Rosenbaum (28)
8. Brad Meyers (44)
7. Robbie Ray (68)
6. Alex Meyer (90)
5. Matt Purke (106)
4. Tommy Milone (110)
3. Sammy Solis (114)
2. A.J. Cole (142)
1. Brad Peacock (166)

Others receiving votes: Kylin Turnbull (13), Wirkin Estevez (11), Taylor Jordan, Josh Smoker, Paul Demny, Taylor Hill, Atahualpa Severino, Marcos Frias, Cole Kimball, Pat Lehman

As you’ve probably already surmised — and the mathmetically inclined, deduced — Peacock, Cole, and Solis were the every-ballot picks; Ray was the fourth. Purke, Milone, and Alex Meyer were named on 16 of 17 ballots. After that, it’s scattershot.

Unlike the bats, I think this list shows our biases, Brad Meyers and Rafael Martin in particular. I called out the votes for Turnbull and Estevez because you can see that just one or two more votes would have put them in the list. I voted for “For The Weekend” because he’s one of the handful of Nats’ teenage pitchers that have pitched north of Viera, but didn’t for Turnbull because he’s thrown less than a 100 innings since H.S. and the guess is that he’ll be used as a reliever not a starter.

Unfortunately, the starter vs. reliever bias is probably hurting Josh Smoker the most, but like favoring youth, it’s prospect prejudice that’s right more often than it’s wrong. I’d have probably voted for Jordan if he’d finished the season at Hagerstown, but fair or not, my inclination is to hold injuries against a pitcher until he proves that he’s healthy. And I write that having had some of the problems (back, hip, knee) that come with the pitcher’s physique without any of the incipient stress (or talent) of actually throwing a baseball.

Have at it in the comments. The winter meetings start next week and finish with the Rule 5 draft. Yesterday, we got a little touch of the hot stove and let’s hope it burns steadily for the next two months.

Dec 012011
 

What began with the promotion of Randy Knorr from Syracuse Chiefs manager to Washington Nationals bench last month continued with the promotions of Tony Beasley and Matt LeCroy today.

Beasley was named the Syracuse manager after a single season at Harrisburg, one in which the 44-year-old led the Senators to the Eastern League’s best record at 80-62. This will be Beasley’s first stint at the AAA level. According to Patriot-News beat writer Geoff Morrow, he will be joined by longtime Harrisburg hitting coach Troy Gingrich.

Taking Beasley’s place will be Matt LeCroy, who also managed just a single season at Potomac while guiding his club to a second-half playoff berth. The almost-36-year-old LeCroy will be joined by longtime Potomac pitching coach Paul Menhart, who will replace Randy Tomlin as the Senators pitching coach (Tomlin has left the organization voluntarily for personal reasons, see first link for more details).

Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore is reporting that replacements for the Potomac coaching staff will be made within a few days.

Nov 302011
 

Our little experiment in crowdsourcing was enough of a success that I’d like to try it again to select the Top 10 pitching prospects. Send your Top 10 pitching prospects to natsprospects[at]gmail[dot]com (Link opens your preferred email client).

Same methodology… I’ll compile them, weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point) and we’ll have fodder for discussion. When I hit a sizable number of submissions, I’ll update this post to let people know we’ve hit a critical mass.

I expect this to be bit more contentious. Pitchers are a breed apart and are often the stuff of myth, legend, and lore. They certainly seem to elicit some of the strongest emotions here, particularly for the some of the older guys that are on the cusp of either making it or becoming OGs, or the ones that “just get guys out,” typically with a warmer vs. a heater.

Nov 292011
 

Last year, I wrote “The people have spoken,” referring to the poll for next steps regarding rankings and watchlists. This year, the sentiment’s the same but this time, it’s a little more literal.

That’s because this year’s list is based on the opinions of those that wrote in to my query for submissions, not just my own. Is it scientific? Hell, no — it’s subjective. But the theory is that a bunch of like-minded seamheads are going to produce a better list than this one did last year.

The methodology is pretty simple: I took the submissions, put ‘em in a spreadsheet and then added up the points in reverse (#1 vote = 10 points, #10 vote = 1 point). Top vote getter is #1, second-most is #2, etc. A couple of ballots mixed in pitchers and I tried to count them anyways but that actually produced a couple of ties, so I tossed ‘em and that worked to break the ties.

The sample size isn’t terribly big (19) but it was about what I was hoping for (20). So here are the results, in reverse order with points in parentheses. A perfect score was 190 and I’m sure you’ll be *shocked* to learn that it was achieved.

10. Eury Perez (28)
9. Michael Taylor (33)
8. Tyler Moore (56)
7. Chris Marrero (74)
6. Destin Hood (87)
5. Steve Lombardozzi (95)
4. Brian Goodwin (103)
3. Derek Norris (150)
2. Anthony Rendon (152)
1. Bryce Harper (190)

Others receiving votes: Zach Walters, Jeff Kobernus, Rick Hague, Kevin Keyes, Jason Martinson, Jhonatan Solano, Matt Skole, Chris Curran, David Freitas, Corey Brown, Erik Komatsu, Blake Kelso

That’s 22 players receiving votes. You’ll note that I used “position players” instead of “bats” this year in the headline. Some folks took that to mean strictly hitting prowess, even though I tend to use it as a synonym like “arms” for pitchers. But I stuck with bats because I like the picture, opting against a visual pun (this time; I’ve been saving that one since last winter).

I think you can see from this variety of names that some folks are factoring in defense (e.g. Curran) some give props to knocking on the MLB door (Solano) and some give props to raw tools (Keyes). Three players appeared on all ballots: Harper, Rendon, and Norris. Goodwin was left off one; Moore, two; Lombardozzi, Hood, and Marrero: three; Perez, eight; Taylor, ten. The others receiving votes are in order of points, but it wasn’t close: Walters received 15 points.

The two names that missed that kind of surprised me were David Freitas and Rick Hague. Say what you will about his defense, but an .858 OPS over two years might have gotten a little more respect. Conversely, a season-ending shoulder injury didn’t dissuade folks from voting for Hague, even though as the votes for Martinson and Walters attest, he’s no longer the shortstop in waiting that he was this time last year.

Ultimately, like all things hot stove, this is an exercise that mainly serves to pass the time and the winter. But that’s going to stop me from soliciting votes for the pitchers as my next project ;-)

Editor’s Note: This was largely written prior to the news that Chris Marrero had torn his hamstring. Clearly this is a blow to both the prospect and the organization. It may also open the door for Tyler Moore. But one has to also wonder if this makes Lombardozzi the trade chip in lieu of Marrero, given the interest in Mark DeRosa.

Nov 282011
 

Our weekly look at the Nationals players in the Winter Leagues, with all statistics as of 1:39 a.m. on November 27, 2011.
DWL HITTERS

DWL PITCHERS

VWL HITTERS

VWL PITCHERS

MWL PITCHERS

PRWL PITCHERS

PRWL HITTERS

As mentioned previously, some names have been dropped due to inactivity. As a reminder, the DWL ends on Dec. 21, the VWL amd MWL end on Dec. 30 and PRWL ends on Jan. 4.

Nov 262011
 

Of course, the events of the past 24-36 hours belie the idea that there is such a thing as the wisdom of crowds. But since we have an interesting convergence of both a lull before the winter meetings and only one major prospect ranking thus far this offseason, I think there’s an opportunity to tap into our own community of seamheads to do this year’s Top 10 lists and see how we do when the big boys weigh in next month.

So here’s the deal. We’ll try the position players first. Send your Top 10 position players to natsprospects[at]gmail[dot]com (Link opens your preferred email client).

I’ll compile them, weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point) and we’ll have fodder for discussion. When I hit a sizable number of submissions, I’ll update this post to let people know we’ve hit a critical mass.

Like the headline says, it’s an experiment. I’m intrigued to see how we rank them vs. the others. If it goes smoothly, I’ll repeat the process for the pitchers. I’m hoping to do the results post early next week.

UPDATE:
I’m declaring victory and tabulating the votes. Thanks to all that participated. Your punishment reward is that you’ll be asked to do it again ;-)

Nov 242011
 

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days in the prospect world, with the new CBA that’s changed the pipeline to the majors by imposing severe restrictions on spending and laid the foundation for an international draft.
Ben Goessling of MASN makes a compelling argument that the new CBA is a reaction to what the Nationals have done for the past three drafts.

Now there’s a case to be made that the field has been leveled, but it’s a weak one. The big boys have already proven that (A) they’re not willing to overspend on amateur talent (B) if and when they decide they should, they can more than afford the penalties. To be blunt, the leveling is not on dollars but sense. Teams that preach scouting and development can’t put their money where their mouths are anymore and bet big (e.g. Royals) on amateurs and IFAs. Good scouting and drafting will still be rewarded. It just will be rewarded less.

What remains to be seen is what teams will do with these so-called savings. Will teams decide to invest more in player development indirectly by hiring more coaches or spending more money on catering, transportation, training, etc.? Or will the “that’s the way we’ve always done things” mentality persist? In this age of MBA front offices, I believe there’s an opportunity to reallocate those funds into your human capital. Never mind that the first organization that does this might just have an advantage.

That’s enough for today — I’m thankful to have the chance to have this little bully pulpit, and I’m glad for everybody that stops by and reads. Stay safe, stay home (if you can), and call your mother!

Nov 232011
 

Yesterday, we looked at the infielders and the catchers. Today, the pitchers and the outfielders. The same caveats apply.

When I reviewed the 2011 watchlist a little more than two months ago, I made a vow to be a little tougher this year. Eighty-nine names made it last year, as of this writing, it’s 72 — nearly 20 percent fewer. There are still some names here that I’m fence on — mostly near the top, which invariably makes them fan favorites and, by definition, a case can be made for them if they’ve risen to AAA.

I’m quite well aware that there are some names from last year’s list that are still “young enough” but had mediocre to subpar years, or were hurt. As I mentioned in the 2011 watchlist review, they’re going to have to play their way back onto the 2013 list, just as they’re going to have to outplay the next wave of players making their way up the ladder.

So when you make your case for someone’s inclusion and/or exclusion, bear these things in mind. I’ve already cut some slack for some older guys at the expense of leaving off a couple of names from the DSL, a decision I can justify given my own track record about picking names from the DSL (of the two “Top 5′s” in the 2010 DSL Review, five repeated the level, four were promoted, and one was released) as well as my decision to only rank five names total from the GCL.

OF RHSP RHRP LHSP LHRP
Corey Brown Brad Peacock Rafael Martin Tommy Milone Josh Smoker
Bryce Harper Brad Meyers Pat Lehman Danny Rosenbaum Matt Purke
Eury Perez Paul Demny Marcos Frias Sammy Solis Kylin Turnbull
Destin Hood Alex Meyer Neil Holland Robbie Ray Paul Applebee
Brian Goodwin A.J. Cole Matt Swynenberg Matt Grace
Kevin Keyes Taylor Jordan Greg Holt Christian Meza
Michael Taylor Wirkin Estevez Joel Barrientos
Billy Burns Taylor Hill Hector Silvestre
Randolph Oduber Brian Dupra
Caleb Ramsey Nathan Karns
Narciso Mesa Manny Rodriguez
Estarlin Martinez Gilberto Mendez
Wander Ramos Ivan Pineyro
Nov 222011
 

Paging Brian Oliver…Mr. Oliver, the white phone please…

In the interest of passing along the analysis for folks to digest over the next few days:

For my money — and it’s not my money — the knee-jerk reaction that two-sport athletes will be driven away is probably overblown. Baseball’s been losing that battle for quite some time now and it’s why the international pipeline has become so prominent.

On the other hand, as that first link lays out the $2.9M ceiling for under-23 IFAs is going to level the playing field and take away a tool for rebuilding that teams like Texas and Seattle have been using to rebuild. Perhaps some will chortle that the Nats have never come close to spending that kind of money post-Smiley, but now they can’t for at least the next five years.

As a consolation, there are some provisions to give small- and low-revenue clubs extra draft picks. More interesting is that these can be traded. That could be game-changing or it could be disastrous.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle is that immediately-on-the-40 deals are now disallowed. Just like the rule that changed amateur to first-year player, this is a move against Scott Boras. Might be good for the clubs, but like nearly everything else, it’s going to depress salaries.

Lastly, there seems to be a sentiment that this will chase more players to college. That’s true, but what remains to be seen is how teams will allocate their signing budgets. I haven’t seen anything to the effect of changing when players can be drafted out of college, but I somehow doubt that they’ll allow one-and-dones like the NBA.

Nov 222011
 

Now that the season reviews are done and the Top 10 (or 11, or 15, or 20) lists are around the corner, I’ve decided it’s time to start looking towards building the 2012 Watchlist. I’ve gone through this year’s season reviews, the Florida Instructional League invitees, and put them in a format similar to last year’s.

A few caveats…

It’s not a depth chart — I’ve arranged this by the highest level played thus far, with some exceptions (Anthony Rendon, who may not even stick at the position). Clearly you can see some gaps, but the point here is to list the players we’ve got our eye on — organizing it by position is just a logical extension.

It’s based on 2011 usage — We’ve already begun speculating about position changes, but until they actually occur, we default to how they were last used. I don’t think, for example, that Justin Bloxom will be the starting third baseman for the Senators, but I do think he’ll be on the roster.

It’s preliminary — Before John Sickels finalizes his lists, he takes feedback from his followers and I’m no different. I’ll listen to pitches for and against inclusion before I finalize it, but I also want to keep the list a manageable size (though easier than last year, I’m still going to have write reports for everybody).

It’s broken into two parts — So I can get in two posts before the Thanksgiving throngs hit the roads, the malls, and the liquor cabinet (preferably in that order). It’s infielders and catchers today, pitchers and outfielders tomorrow.

A couple final reminders: One, I tend to favor performance and a track record over reputation and youth. Two, remember that players’ families and friends are reading here and most are not like Dirk Hayhurst’s grandma*. You don’t have to be relentlessly positive, but try not to be needlessly negative (yeah, yeah: pot, kettle).
*I finished my master’s degree while renting out a room from a retired IRS agent just like her; I’m fairly certain he’s not exaggerating.

C 1B 2B SS 3B
Derek Norris Chris Marrero Steve Lombardozzi Zach Walters Justin Bloxom
Sandy Leon Tyler Moore Jeff Kobernus Jason Martinson Blake Kelso
David Freitas Steve Souza Adrian Sanchez Rick Hague Anthony Rendon
Adrian Nieto Justin Miller Hendry Jimenez Bryce Ortega Matt Skole
  Arialdi Peguero “Fred” Ortega Wilmer Difo Jean Carlos Valdez
Jose Marmolejos-Diaz Junior Geraldo Diomedes Eusebio